Camille Lefebvre, c.s.c. and
Marie-Leonie Paradis, foundress

Camille Lefebvre
A friend of the Paradis family, he was nine years older than Élodie.  He was fatherless and was the only support of his infirm elderly mother.  Pious, he felt attracted to the priesthood but there was no money for his studies.  The Holy Cross Fathers were ready to teach philosophy and theology to young men in exchange for a few hours per day of teaching at their college in Saint-Laurent.  Accepted, he became a Holy Cross Father.  Superior of St. Joseph’s College in Memramcook, he asked the Holy Cross Sisters, from Indiana in the United States, for help to ensure the proper functioning of his College.  He died suddenly in 1895.  He was named the great defender and savior of the French language in Acadia.

Photo of
Camille Lefebvre, c.s.c.

In the fall of 1874, Sister Marie-de-Sainte-Leonie was sent from Indiana to Memramcook, New Brunswick, to take charge of the sisters and young Acadians who performed domestic work at St. Joseph’s College, then under the leadership of Father Camille Lefebvre, c.s.c..

This place soon became a source of vocations and generous girls quickly gathered around Sister Leonie or Sister Marie-Leonie as she was usually called.

There, in 1880, she officially founded her Institute: The Little Sisters of the Holy Family to collaborate with and support the Religious of Holy Cross in educational work.

In 1895, the death of Father Lefebvre, who had assisted the community, left this work full of promise without canonical approval.

In 1880, the General Chapter of the Holy Cross Congregation accepted that these girls, called "Little Sisters of the Holy Family", would organize themselves into an autonomous Institute under the direction of Sister Marie-Leonie.  While sanctifying themselves through private vows, these young women devoted themselves to the domestic care of the Holy Cross colleges in Canada.

She still remains a profess of Holy Cross and wears its habit.  In 1905, Pope Saint Pius X relieved her of her obligations to her first community and allowed her to wear the religious habit given to her sisters.

Painting of Mother Marie-Leonie Painting of Mother Marie-Leonie

Painting of Mother Marie-Leonie

Gradually, the Institute came to serve different religious communities and diocesan clergy.

Her sisters worked in more than forty houses when God called her to him on May 3, 1912, at the age of 72, after having led her community for 32 years.

That very morning, she had the joy of receiving permission to print the "Little Rule" of the Constitutions, for which she waited patiently for twenty years.  When dinner was over, she died suddenly after saying to a sick sister in the afternoon: Goodbye until we meet in heaven!

A woman of great heart, of disarming simplicity, she left more than 600 nuns happy to follow in her footsteps, loving and supporting the ministry of priests in prayer and devotion.

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